The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as BCRA, prohibited corporations and unions from using their general treasury to fund campaign communications 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election. However, in 2004, a non-profit organization complained about a film about 9/11 as they alleged it was critical of the response of the Bush administration to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They said it constituted political advertising. The complaint was dismissed.
Following several actions, the court finally found BCRA 203 to be in contravention of the first amendment’s protection of free speech. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion stated that if the original amendment had any force, it restrained the government from penalizing or imprisoning citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political communication. The majority, however, found BCRA 201 and 311 valid as they promoted transparency. These prompted disclosure of campaign fund sources.
Reform in Campaign Funding
The political action committee, End Citizens United, launched in August of 2015, raised $2 Million from small donors in a small amount of time. The goal of its formation was to lobby for the reversal of a decision which saw the emergence of super PACs. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled to approve corporate America and unions to donate to political campaigns. This caused the formation of super PACs, which could raise deep pools of funding. Their goal was however met with skepticism from republicans. A campaign finance regulation expert even called this a ‘pipe-dream’ and even went further to say that the only way the Citizens United Decision could be reversed would be to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice when the time came who could shift the balance of the court.
End Citizens United partnered with ‘Ready for Hillary’ and rented out their mailing list of more than 4 Million people to reach out to liberal supporters. They had planned to set up a fund to back democrat candidates through outreach. The group does not back republicans as republican leaders are against overturning, and they are determined only to support candidates who champion for campaign finance reform. People who donate to this group feel like the only ones who get their way are those with deep pockets. Donating within the cap of $5000 is, therefore, their way of retaliating. In the first three months of 2017, the group raised $4 Million and projected to raise $31 Million more ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections.
Still a Long Way to Go
End Citizens United partnered with a dozen groups to urge senators who had received donations from Betsy DeVos and her wealthy family. They were to recuse themselves from voting for her appointment as the United States Secretary for Education. The result was a tie with Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote in her favor.